By SIA CHOKSHI ‘21
Four years ago, Ms. Vicki Jenkins established a brand new addition to our school’s art department: dance. All schools in New Jersey are supposed to offer four arts disciplines: music, art, theatre and dance. The only missing at Edison High was dance. So, Ms. Jenkins created the Edison High School dance program, building it from scratch.
Today, classes include jazz, ballet, modern, social dance, history of dance, body anatomy and choreography instruction. This past year, Jenkins has also began her “audition tool kit” unit, using headshots, resumes, and other instruction to prepare students for a career in dance. Not only does her school life revolve around dance, but her personal life does as well. She is currently a performance counselor, working with a few clients a week to help new dancers enter the world of arts.
As a child, Ms. Jenkins loved to choreograph, and helped her friends do the same. “I was always in my room, making up dances… I would gather all my friends and have them create… I just loved it,” Jenkins said. This facet of her personality transferred over to her fondness for teaching: “I always wanted to teach, I always loved to teach,” she said, emphasizing how close the profession is to her.
Prior to teaching at Edison High School, Jenkins taught at Steps on Broadway in New York City, and at Inspira Performing Arts Center in New Brunswick. She said that she had “traveled all over the world… I’ve been as far as Malaysia is teaching.” The scope of her travels is unimaginable, and she reiterated that she has experience with choreography and personal lessons all over the country.
Just recently, Ms. Jenkins has reentered the job of helping individual clients, unable to do so prior due to her education. She has just received her master’s degree in dance education, a commitment that took up just enough of her time that she was forced to forgo performance counseling for a short amount of time. Now, she is happy to have time and help her clients once again.
Because of the pandemic, however, she has been unable to jump back into teaching at dance schools, something that had stopped because of her commitment to her degree. Not only has the pandemic hindered her ability to teach dance, but “it has stunted my creativity.”
Yet she also highlights the effects it is having on the arts community: “I think people are scared now to go into the performing arts… now you’re figuring out… what is going to be the state of performance in this world?” However, because of her experience in the dance industry, and community, Ms. Jenkins has been able to think differently, hooking up her computer to her television, so she is able to see each of her students clearly.
Although the pandemic has put pressure on her ability to teach, dance, and consult, Ms. Jenkins has pushed through, and has thrived in this new normal.